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How Casa Loma ruined its Owner’s Life

Ghost Guide Daniel – – Casa Loma is Spanish for “Hill House”.  There are none more impressive than this one in Toronto. They called Sir Henry Pellatt “crazy” for building it.  But he had a dream… to create a medieval castle in Canada!

Casa Loma Toronto - Historic Photo Toronto Archives

He was a Knight

Made a Knight Bachelor for stellar military service. Rising quickly through the ranks, eventually reaching Commanding Officer.

Being a Knight Bachelor is not as high a rank as Knight. But it’s the oldest ranking, dating back to the 1600’s. And allowed Pellatt to become a “Sir”.

Also, he was very rich.  The money not from business, but good investments.

Including into the infancy of electricity, with the Toronto Electric Company. Part of this included the now haunted, Toronto Power Generating Station in Niagara Falls.

Along with owning a Silver Mine at the height of the Cobalt Silver Rush in 1903. And the early railway systems. 

Casa Loma is Born

Confident in his wealth, Pellatt hired architect E.J. Lennox. Lennox known in Canada for Toronto’s Old City Hall and the Power Station in Niagara Falls. He gave the great architect complete freedom… “Go nuts!”

Building a Castle - Casa Loma, Toronto
Building a Castle – Casa Loma, Toronto

And nuts he went. Creating a dream castle. Something easily snuck to the grounds of Disney World.

The house came in at around $3.5 million in 1914. That’s almost $100 million today! 299 workers and 3 years to build it. Only delayed by the start of World War I.

The house has 98 rooms covering 64,700 square feet. At the time this was the largest private residence in Canada. More square footage than a football field.

However, this dream house became Pellatt’s nightmare. 

Extravagance led to poor financial decisions and unwelcome house expenses.

Depression for Canada and Sir Henry

Then his depression. Not even rich folks are safe!

Sir Henry Pellatt - Casa Loma, Toronto
Sir Henry Pellatt

The City of Toronto increased Casa Loma’s property taxes from $600 per year, to $1,000 a month (today that’s $26,000 per month).

Pellatt panicked.

Already in debt, he auctioned off $2 million in art and furnishings. Didn’t save him, but this delayed the downfall for 10 years.

Sir Henry was financially ruined by 1923. The City of Toronto took his house for back-taxes. 

His dream was destroyed. Pellatt left Casa Loma for good in 1923. 

Off to Mimico

Building a more reasonable house in Mimico (part of Toronto). He called it Bailey House, located at the bend in Lake Shore near Fleeceline.

Near Former site of Bailey House in Mimico
Near former site of Bailey House – Etobicoke (Toronto)

Don’t bother looking it up. The house became a Legion Hall, then demolished for a road.

But Pellatt couldn’t handle that house either.

Eventually moving in with his chauffeur, a man named Thomas Ridgway. Who lived in a small bungalow on Queen’s Avenue, also in Etobicoke.

Pellatt died in 1939. 16 years after losing his beloved Casa Loma.

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4 replies on “How Casa Loma ruined its Owner’s Life”

Really? What about Canada taking his Electricity Generating business away from him. I’d say that was the reason.

Sounds like it wasn’t extravagance that destroyed him, but the government raising his taxes by 20 times the original amount… I wonder how many people could survive if the government decided to increase their taxes on us by that amount.

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